After all the heartbreaking cultural schisms, the pointless wars and the avoidable market meltdown, local Democrats saw last night as a gift America gave itself, a gift of healing and hope.

After all the heartbreaking cultural schisms, the pointless wars and the avoidable market meltdown, local Democrats saw last night as a gift America gave itself, a gift of healing and hope.

Gathered before giant TV screens and getting ready to pop champagne corks, Jackson County Democrats in the Historic Ashland Armory hushed as the clock ticked down to poll closing at 8, when CNN said it projected Barack Obama is the next president of the United States.

The place exploded. It was a joy that went beyond any party or politics and spoke directly to the age-old longing for the melting pot to melt, for us finally to become blind to color and for America to get on with the hard work of the common good.

"Everything is changed. Life as we know it will never be the same," said homeless champion Randy Dollinger, a tireless campaigner for the new president.

"It's the most emotional time since VE Day (Victory in Europe, 1945), when I was 12," said Jim Faircloth.

"This night is incredible," said Lauren Spector of Central Point. "I remember when Martin Luther King said 'I have a dream' and now that dream is coming true. People can start being kind to one another. It's such a historical night and I'm so glad I'm alive to see it!"

A food server, who'd just cast her first vote, exclaimed, "It's like a movie!"

Monica Wandro burst out laughing, "I don't have to move to Canada now! I finally have a little bit of faith in our country, which I'd lost."

Ashland Parks and Recreation Commissioner JoAnn Eggers said, "My hope, which I'd never lost, has a foundation now. It's going to be a lot of hard work. America now perceives the difficulty of the issues that face us, like climate change and the health care disaster and we're being realistic."

Alison Laughlin of Ashland, said, "It's very exciting to have a president you can believe in and to have the possibility that things are going to get better, not immediately better but more reasonable, because he's a moral, hopeful and uniting person. I can't imagine a harder time to be president. We can support our president and have a world that's not horrified at our politics."

Gary Moore, vice chairman of Jackson County Democrats, said, "It's the culmination of so much hard work, a change in direction from the economy to the war, to corporations sending jobs overseas. The government is broken and absolutely must go in a new direction."

Rep. Peter Buckley observed, "It's a transformational election, moving our country in an entirely different direction. We're finally taking care of our own people and focusing on health care and education. We're going to make things work again."

Electing an African-American to lead the nation, Buckley added, "is huge. I was just in Croatia. They're astounded. The whole world is watching. It says to the world 'we're ready to lead again and build a future.'"

Ashland's Mayor-elect John Stromberg, said, "The pent-up frustration of the Bush years has been channeled into this remarkable campaign. It's a symbolic step in the growth of American culture. Finally the young people can get engaged in politics. The fact that this country elected a mixed-race person means we are living our values, treating people as human beings and not stereotypes."